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[Xmca-l] Re: L2
I share your disappointment with Lantolf (I was asked to leave the
Ph.D programme at Open University when I declined to include him in my
literature survey). Merrill Swain once told me that she found the book
that he wrote with Steve Thorne, "Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis
of Second Language Development (OUP2006) unusuable; I found it
unreadable, including the title, and I was particularly offended by
the "study" he did of a US Army general who tried to learn Chinese and
was supposedly thwarted by the terrible contrast between free,
liberty-loving atmosphere she was used to in the army and the
regimented, dehumanizing ambiance of a Chinese language classsroom.
But in the cool light of morning reflection (it is seven a.m. here,
and the leaves remind me that it is not just the sun that cools as it
reddens) I must acknowledge at least four areas in which Lantolf has
made some very specific contributions.
a) He was the first to point out that ZPD does not equal i + 1 (I will
explain that cryptic formulation below; let's keep the two questions
separate, as you said).
b) With Mathew Poehner, he is a strong promoter of "dynamic testing"
in a field where testing is often a substitute for real teaching (I
think this actually explains a lot about the way his interpretation of
the ZPD does not adequately differentiate learning and development and
certainly takes no notice of the Central Line of Development or the
Neoformation or the Age Periods).
c) He has, as you say, applied the concept of inner speech and
internalization to second language acquisition (but I think he
understands both of them wrongly, because of point b).
d) He's done some work that might interest you on McNeill and that
Sylvester the Cat and Tweetie Bird video, which contrasts how Spanish
and English encode movement (Spanish tends to do it with the verb, but
English prefers adverbs and prepositional phrases).
And he is ubiquitous and the universally acknowledged rep for CHAT in
this field, so in the soft red glare of retrospection I have to admit
that some of my disappointment is the work of that green-eyed monster,
Other scholars who do Vygotskyan work in L2:
Merrill Swain, Sharon Lapkin, Celeste Kinginger (wonderful article on
the misuses of the ZPD, "Defining the ZPD in US Foreign Language
Education" in Applied Linguistics 23/2, 2002: 240-262).
When you say that it is hard to find studies of unwilling language
learners, I can tell that you are not reading material from the late
seventies and eighties. In fact, the whole field of "second language
acquisition", which has tried to conceptualize second language
learning as the acquiring of some object quite external to the
learner, is the product of an obsession with the very different
success rates in first language learning and second language learning
at that time. It was widely assumed that formal instruction
essentially no difference at all, and that therefore the way to teach
a language was to provide conditions that were as 'naturalistic' as
possible. Once this was done, it was thought, classroom language
learning would be just as successful as first language "acquisition"
(again, the idea is that the learner is involved in a process
comparable to the accumulation of capital).
Hence the idea, still dominant in applied linguistics, that language
learning and teaching should be reduced to providing "comprehensible
input" at a level slightly above the learner's present competence (i +
1). This idea, still completely undefined and unoperationalizable
(because we neither know what the learner's "present competence" is
nor can we clearly say in what sense some structure is "above" that
competence) was widely assumed to be identical to the ZPD, hence
Lantolf's intervention referred to in a) above.
Some people, notably John Schumann, pointed out that 'naturalistic'
language learning outside the classroom was by no means one hundred
And of course the main studies of motivation (Gardner and Lambert,
Kathy Bailey, Zoltan Dornyei) mostly deal with learning in a
The final point I'd like to make, though, is that there are several
assumptions here that could be fruitfully questioned. First of all
there is the assumption that classroom learning is voluntary. Since
most children are under the legal age of consent, this is far from
obvious. Secondly, there is the assumption that L2 is really a pale
reflection of L1, and therefore L2 learning outside the classroom is
an incompetent recapitulation of the process of learning an L1. This I
think Vygotsky would reject most vigorously. Finally, there is the
assumption that Halliday first taught us to question: that learning
language, learning about language, and learning through language are
really three different processes instead of a single unified process
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
On 4 November 2014 00:42, Carol Macdonald <email@example.com> wrote:
> SCT in Language Learning doesn't even get to the Inner Speech area as far
> as I know. That would be LSV pure and uadulterated. It seems to me to
> swallow the shallowly touted "definitions" that general instructions also
> uses. I think your students might like a bit of exposition on the
> development of Inner Speech.
> I once had to restrained when a literacy student said that Vygotsky
> invented group work!! These people sometimes quote tertiary sources with
> abandon. We were/are such purists in Psych in Education that students had
> to read the primary sources.
> Martin, I know what you said - I was pulling your chain on claiming
> familiarity with the field on the basis of abstracts. I know you will have
> headed for the library once the doors opened. Sorry mate.
> On 3 November 2014 16:20, Martin John Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> To me, one important question would be what SCT is able to tell us about
>> instruction in L2, over and above instruction in general.
>> Carol, I think I explained that this weekend I have had online access to
>> no more than abstracts, except for two chapters that I already had on hand,
>> and which I was referring to. However, if an article contains a bright new
>> idea it really ought to be in the abstract, no?
>> On Nov 3, 2014, at 8:40 AM, Carol Macdonald <email@example.com> wrote:
>> > Martin
>> > You paint with a broad brush here: ELL is a fast growing field today,
>> > because "Biligual Education" has a wide range of situations/niches which
>> > other people have said here. (It nearly has encyclapedia status). I do
>> > and L2 work here in Southern Africa (Grades 1-7) and one of very few
>> > privileged enough to be able to do it. Even in such similar cultures as
>> > Namibia and South Africa there are very different perceptions about
>> > as Second Language and ways of talking about it.
>> > I think you must look at what you said - who is going to deliver their
>> > bright new idea in an abstract? You have to surmise that they do, because
>> > their concepts (small c) are in place. (We fail people here who only
>> > abstracts...). So head to the hardcopy, comrade brother.
>> > Having delivered my sermon, I find the SCT of ESL very disappointing. It
>> > seems like they are just pinning new labels on things they already knew.
>> > But if we have a fellow practitioner among us, please do speak up. I
>> > remember when I first started working on CHAT in language education in
>> > late eighties, I felt I was pinning labels.
>> > Carol
>> > On 3 November 2014 13:50, Martin John Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> > wrote:
>> >> Hi David,
>> >> I have to teach a class on second language learning this week in my
>> >> in Psychology of Language, so I've turned to Lantolf. My university
>> >> webpage has been down for maintenance this weekend so I've had limited
>> >> access to his writing, but what I have been able to read has confused
>> >> In a couple of articles I find reasonable summaries of LSV's ideas, but
>> >> then Lantolf doesn't get around to applying these ideas to L2! Looking
>> >> abstracts in Google Scholar it seems that he's proposing that (1) L2 is
>> >> learned in the ZPD (what isn't?), (2) L2 is a mediator (what isn't?),
>> >> (3) private speech occurs in L2 (okay, that could be interesting). I was
>> >> expecting him to attribute some role to L2 in the higher functions, or
>> >> suggest that L2 mediates in a specific way, or...
>> >> What am I missing?
>> >> Plus, I have a growing suspicion that most L2 research is conducted on
>> >> people willingly studying a foreign language in the classroom. Not
>> much, or
>> >> nothing, on people who are forced to abandon their mother tongue because
>> >> they live somewhere where school, and/or work, is available only if they
>> >> speak a dominant language. I'm hoping you'll tell me I'm wrong about
>> >> Martin
>> > --
>> > Carol A Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
>> > Developmental psycholinguist
>> > Academic, Researcher, and Editor
>> > Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
> Carol A Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
> Developmental psycholinguist
> Academic, Researcher, and Editor
> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa